1909 – 1929
The Ballets Russes – All Artists to the Stage
It is a time of upheaval and inner conflict. At the beginning of the 20th century, the engineering sciences are furthering advances in industrialization at a breathtaking pace. The resulting urbanization fundamentally changes social structures: some people take advantage of unimagined opportunities, others lose their footing. The rational view of the world is also being torn apart by discoveries such as the theory of relativity. In the irritating atmosphere of departure from outdated values, Europe’s monarchical systems of government are behind the times, nationalist tendencies are spreading and extreme militarization is unsettling people. Society fluctuates between euphoria and fear of the future.
And what does the cultural avant-garde make out of the feeling of awakening and helplessness? They flee into aesthetic counterworlds and celebrate – opulently, frivolously and decadently – the break with old values. More than almost any other artistic movement, Ballets Russes embodies this zeitgeist for more than two decades. Founded by the Russian impresario Sergei Djagilev, they made their first appearance in Paris in 1909. The ensemble rejects the traditions of classical dance and fascinates its audience with erotic choreographies. Composers, painters, dancers – with new rhythms, fantastic stage sets and costumes they turn the Ballets Russses performances into fireworks for the senses.
Russian director Sergei Djagilev founded the ballet ensemble in 1909 in Paris, the center of dance art, which proved to be the most important ballet ensemble of the 20th century. To this day, the Ballets Russes are regarded as the avant-garde of dance and had considerable influence upon their contemporaries. Musicians, dancers, members of the theater and artists intensively exchanged their ideas and skills. Painters not only created stage sets and costumes for the ballet, but also drew inspiration from the Ballets Russes for their own works. No matter which style they belonged to – whether primitivism, surrealism, futurism, cubism or fauvism – they were equally fascinated by the Ballets Russes.